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Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems

The Bering Sea has experienced significant change over. During the last decade, warming (~3°C) of the Bering Sea has been closely associated with a marked decrease in sea ice concentration, duration, and maximum extent. The climate trends leading to these changes have caused major ecosystem shifts. The nature and extent of sea ice over the Bering Sea shelf and the timing of its retreat have a profound impact on the timing and nature of the spring phytoplankton bloom. However, there is little knowledge of community compositional variability of the phytoplankton blooms and how the zooplankton community may respond or be impacted by such changes. The overarching goal of this study is to understand the response of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities to changing ice dynamics in the Bering Sea. In this project we will (1) integrate ship measurements of phytoplankton species composition, their size structure and productivity to understand the potential consequences on zooplankton populations measured from moored acoustical observations, (2) integrate ship-based observations of size structure and photo-physiological properties of phytoplankton with optical measurements to refine satellite algorithms for the retrieval of phytoplankton size composition, chlorophyll concentration, and primary production and (3) utilize in situ observations and satellite observations of ocean color and of sea-ice conditions to improve modeled physical, biogeochemical and ecosystem dynamics. We have organized this project around the following primary science questions: - What are the dominant physical and chemical ice-mediated controls on phytoplankton community structure and size fractionated productivity; how are these controls changing with decreasing sea ice extent and concentration? - How do zooplankton size and community structure vary with sea ice mediated changes in bloom timing? - Is there a clear relationship between phytoplankton bloom dynamics and community composition, zooplankton biomass and community structure and sea ice dynamics, how have these changed over our data record and how may they change in the future? The significance of this study lies in the integration of the physical environment to production and community composition patterns of primary and secondary producers. The study links observations made remotely with in situ ecosystem processes and modeling. Zooplankton monitoring under ice provides the opportunity to understand the behavior, timing, and extent of zooplankton assemblages at a time of year when traditional vessel sampling is not feasible. Being able to link the ice-covered zooplankton vertical distributions with surface spatial patters of phytoplankton size and productivity at ice-out will lend new insight into the linking of these trophic levels that have significant impact on fisheries of the region. This research will identify critical parameters and relationships essential for predictive modeling of trophic level dynamics and changing climate in the future. Our proposal is responsive to Subelement 3: Hydrologic, Biological, Biogeochemical, and Geological Impacts of Melting Ice. Our interdisciplinary team will link field observations, satellite algorithms, and numerical circulation sea ice, and ecological models, in order to investigate, implications of reduced sea ice cover for ocean productivity in areas with greater spatial and temporal extent of open water, and the effects of such changes on broader ocean biogeochemical properties and implications of reduced sea ice cover for biodiversity. The work also is supportive of several planned decadal survey missions (ACE, HyspIRI, and GEO-CAPE) and responds to current programmatic activities and priorities of the North American Carbon Program and the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry program.

Project PI: Colleen Mouw/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Room 1053 AOSS Building 1225 W. Dayton Street Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1695

Phone: (608) 263-1787 

Fax: (608) 262-0166

Email: colleen.mouw@ssec.wisc.edu

http://www.aos.wisc.edu/~galen/group_mouw.html

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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Mar 18, 2011

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